The Philips website, www.philips.co.uk, featured a Smart LED TV. Under the "Features" section text stated "Find, schedule, record, and pause TV. Record live digital TV on a USB connected to your Philips TV or pause content whenever you want to take a break and continue watching whenever you want. Use the Electronic Programme Guide to find your favourite programmes and easily schedule your preferred recordings. Now you can programme your TV viewing around your life."
Three complainants, who understood that this feature was not available in the UK, challenged whether the claim was misleading.
Philips Electronics UK Ltd (Philips) said the find, schedule and pause functions were universally available but that, although embedded in the product, the record function was disabled when users selected the UK setting. They said this was a result of incompatibility with the broadcast platform but that on installation, when the UK setting was selected, an on-screen warning explained to customers that the record feature was not available. They said the website, www.philips.co.uk, was used by customers in Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands where not all users selected the UK setting. They also said if users selected Ireland or France then the record function would be enabled.
They acknowledged that further information was required and proposed including an asterisk after the word record in the claim "Find, schedule, record, and pause TV" which directed readers to small print that stated that the record function was not available on TVs configured to the UK country setting.
The website stated "Smart LED TV ... Enjoy the online world with Smart TV ... Find, schedule, record and pause TV ... Record live digital TV on a USB connected to your Philips TV or pause content whenever you want to take a break and continue watching whenever you want ... Now you can programme your TV viewing around your life". We considered readers would understand from this that, if they purchased the product, they would be able to take advantage of the feature, including the record function.
We acknowledged that the record function could be enabled if users changed the product to Ireland or France settings, and that Philips said not all of their customers who used their UK website would select UK settings. However, we considered most visitors to the UK website would be UK consumers who would select the product to the UK setting and therefore expect to be able to use the record function for channels generally made available to them under those settings. Because the record function was not generally available to UK consumers the claim exaggerated the capability of the feature and was misleading.
We acknowledged Philip's proposal to include a qualification to make clear that the function was not available on TVs configured to the UK country setting. However, we considered that this was a significant limitation that was likely to affect a consumer's decision about whether to purchase the product or not. In that context, we considered a qualification stating that the function was not available was more likely to contradict, rather than clarify the claim as it appeared on the UK website. We concluded that the reference to the "record" feature was misleading.
The ad breached Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) and 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Philips not to claim that the product's "record" function was generally available as a feature when it could not be used with UK settings.